Hollywood's Super Bowl ad blitz Movie studios use big game to build buzz for summer action films


Universal Pictures may give Super Bowl watchers the first glimpse of the angry, green giant in a commercial for “The Hulk,” airing during the Jan. 26 game.

By Jane Weaver


Which teams will face-off in the 37th Super Bowl is still undetermined, but it’s clear that – amid the traditional advertisers for beer, soda and cars – the major Hollywood studios will be dominating the commercial time, offering sneak peeks of their anticipated summer blockbusters. Movie advertising has become one of the major categories in this year’s Super Bowl, helping ABC sell nearly all available commercial time in the year’s biggest television event. FROM BRITNEY SPEARS to the Hulk.

The pop princess singing past Pepsi jingles was one of the favorite commercials in last year’s Super Bowl, but the breakout ad star this year’s game, airing on ABC on Jan. 26, just might be an angry green monster.

Universal Pictures has bought a 30-second spot in Super Bowl XXXVII to give TV viewers the first glimpse of “The Hulk,” the hotly awaited action film due to open June 23.

Universal executives didn’t return calls for comment, but the “Hulk” commercial will likely be a display of pyrotechnic special effects and a teasing peek of the gamma ray-dosed superhero, whose image has been carefully hidden from trailers and movie posters.

Universal bought another 30-second spot during the game to promote either the Jim Carrey comedy, “Bruce Almighty” or “The Fast and the Furious 2,” sources say.

Film studio advertising on television has been on the rise for the last couple of years, with TV movie ads up 9 percent in 2002, according to CBS research.

At the same time, the Super Bowl, one of the last sure-fire ratings blockbusters on television, has long been a popular event to introduce new consumer products and brands. With more Hollywood movies being marketed as “events,” the championship match, with its huge, young male audience, has become the must-be place to preview new action films.

“Big movies are marketed much more as events these days and that goes hand-in-hand with using the Super Bowl as part of that,” said Craig Murray, president of Craig Murray Productions, a firm that creates TV commercials for movie studios. “It has become much more a part of their marketing strategies.”

In 2002, the game reached more than 42 million homes in the U.S., with men 18-to-49 years of age, making up nearly 40 percent of the audience, according to ad-buying agency Zenith Media.

This year’s Super Bowl is expected to do equally well.

An estimated five minutes worth of commercials for a handful of upcoming films will air during the game, giving Hollywood as much exposure in the Super Bowl as veteran marketer Anheuser-Busch, the game’s exclusive beer advertiser which purchased ten 30-second commercials, including the first commercial after kick-off.

It’s not uncommon for teaser trailers for blockbuster wannabes to be shown in theaters a year or more ahead of a film’s release date. This year, at least some of the studios bought their Super Bowl ad time last summer, according to ABC Sport’s sales chief Ed Erhardt.

“The movie studios coming into the game is accelerated now,” said Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales for ESPN ABC Sports. “A lot of the time they’d come in at the 11th hour, but they’ve gotten a lot smarter and look at the late January date as the place to be.”

The ads didn’t come cheap. The rush of movie studios into the big game contributed to blockbuster ad sales for ABC. The average price of a 30-second spot jumped to $2.1 million, a 10 percent increase over last year, said Erhardt, who said the commercial time could completely sell out any day.


Dazzling special effects will star in commercials from at least four other movie studios, all vying for attention during the biggest advertising spectacle of the year.

Warner Bros. plans to show a minute-long commercial for “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” the long-awaited sequels opening on May 16 and Nov. 7. Warner Bros. also bought a 30-second commercial for the new Terminator movie “T3: The Rise of the Machines,” being released on July 7.

Walt Disney Co.’s Touchstone Pictures has purchased a spot to preview “The Recruit,” a spy thriller starring Colin Farrell (“Minority Report) and Al Pacino as a CIA recruiter.

News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox has purchased a spot to introduce either “X2,” its summer sequel to the comic book blockbuster “X-Men” or the Ben Affleck super-hero film “Daredevil,” opening next month.

Sony Pictures is scheduled to run three 30-second spots, possibly for “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (June 20) or “Bad Boys 2,” the summer follow-up to the Will Smith, Martin Lawrence hit.

Every studio hopes their Super Bowl moments turn into another “Independence Day.” In 1996, Fox ran a commercial for the Will Smith action movie during the Super Bowl, firing up early buzz for the summer film by showing aliens blowing up the White House. The attention-grabbing tagline? “Enjoy the Super Bowl. It may be your last.”

“Independence Day” became the top-grossing movie of the year, with studio executives publicly crediting the Super Bowl commercial for building fan excitement.

Being in the Super Bowl may be “phenomenally important,” as one studio executive who didn’t want to be identified called it, but it doesn’t guarantee box office success. Last year Warner Bros. ran a spot for the Arnold Schwarzenegger terrorist thriller “Collateral Damage” and MGM Studios promoted the Bruce Willis World War II drama “Hart’s War.”

Both films were box office disappointments.